ROME (AP) – With the French Open rapidly approaching, Rafael Nadal is suddenly not so dominant on clay anymore.
The Spaniard was beaten 7-6 (7), 6-2 by eighth-seeded Stan Wawrinka in the Italian Open quarterfinals Friday, his fifth loss on clay this season.
Nadal wasted four set points in the tiebreaker, surrendering a 6-2 lead.
The last time Nadal was beaten so many times on his favorite surface was 12 years ago in his rookie season.
Nadal has won the French Open nine of the past 10 years. But he s struggling to get back to his best after a wrist injury and an appendectomy last season.
On Monday, Nadal dropped out of the top five in the ATP rankings for the first time in 10 years falling to No. 7.
Nadal had won all 12 of his meetings with Wawrinka until the Swiss player beat him in last year s Australian Open final for his first Grand Slam title. Now, Wawrinka has won two straight in the series.
Wawrinka dictated with powerful groundstrokes from both sides and often came forward to end points at the net.
Wawrinka raised his arms in triumph to celebrate and sent a message to his semifinal opponent fellow Swiss player Roger Federer. Handed a pen to sign a camera lens, Wawrinka scribbled, “See you tomorrow R.F.”
Federer kept up his pursuit of an elusive title with a 6-3, 6-3 win over sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych.
Along with Monte Carlo, Rome is one of only two Masters series titles that the 17-time Grand Slam champion has never won.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, was pushed to three sets for the third consecutive match in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori.
Djokovic s semifinal opponent will be seventh-seeded David Ferrer, who beat David Goffin of Belgium 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
In the women s tournament, two-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova defeated former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-2.
Sharapova will face 21-year-old Daria Gavrilova of Russia, who beat Christina McHale of the United States 6-2, 6-4 in a matchup of two qualifiers.
Also, second-seeded Simona Halep routed qualifier Alexandra Dulgheru 6-1, 6-0 in an all-Romanian matchup. Halep will next face 10th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, who eliminated last week s Madrid Open champion Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-2.
Djokovic, the defending champion also went the distance by Nicolas Almagro and Thomaz Bellucci in his opening two matches. Still, he extended his winning streak to 20 matches.